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Defense attorney for Willie Gandara Sr. disqualified from case; trial postponed [El Paso Times, Texas]

By Adriana M. Chavez, El Paso Times, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Sept. 04--The public corruption trial of a former Socorro school board trustee Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Sr. was delayed on Tuesday after federal prosecutors successfully sought to have his attorney disqualified.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof filed a court motion early Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo to disqualify defense attorney Joe Spencer because Spencer also represents Gandara's son, Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr., in a federal drug trafficking case.

Kanof told Montalvo she plans on calling Gandara Jr. to the stand as a witness against Gandara Sr.

Gandara Sr., 62, had been scheduled go on trial this week on a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. He was the only one of 11 defendants indicted

with him who didn't plead guilty to public corruption charges.

Prosecutors allege that in February 2006, Gandara Sr. allegedly accepted a $1,000 bribe from Access HealthSource spokesman Marc Schwartz intended for Gandara Jr.'s campaign for state representative in exchange for Gandara Sr.'s vote in support for Access as the Socorro Independent School District's health-insurance provider.

The 10 others who pleaded guilty to various charges of fraud or violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, were Schwartz, former Access President Francisco "Frank" Apodaca, former El Paso County Judge Luther Jones, former El Paso County District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez, lawyer David Escobar, former Ysleta Independent

School District board trustees Linda Chavez and Milton "Mickey" Duntley, former city Rep. and County Commissioner Larry Medina, and former Socorro ISD board trustees Charlie Garcia and Raymundo "Ray" Rodriguez.

Last month, Gandara Jr., 37, pleaded guilty to two charges -- conspiracy to distribute marijuana and establishment of manufacturing operations to distribute marijuana. He was allowed to remain free on bond until his Nov. 14 sentencing hearing. The maximum sentence for each charge is 20 years in prison.

Spencer said Tuesday he and Gandara Sr. were disappointed with the prosecution's request to have Spencer, who has been the Gandaras' family attorney for about 10 years, thrown off the case.

"We are ready to try this case and he has the right to have his own lawyer, but the court ordered me off the case," Spencer said. "When I first started representing Mr. Gandara Jr., the information I got from the government was that there was no conflict."

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Spencer said his co-counsel, Joseph Vasquez, will remain as Gandara Sr.'s attorney. There was no word as of Tuesday on who Gandara Sr. would hire to replace Spencer.

Spencer said Gandara Sr.'s trial has been rescheduled for March.

Adriana M. Chavez may be reached at [email protected]; 546-6117. Follow her on Twitter @AChavezEPTimes.


(c)2012 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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